Buck Henry Biography
Buck Henry was known mostly as a writer — he was the co-creator of TV’s Get Smart (1965-70) and the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Graduate (1967).
After graduating from Dartmouth (1952) and serving in the U.S. Army (1953-55), he performed improvisational comedy in New York. Fellow Dartmouth grad Bob Rafaelson — later the director of Five Easy Pieces — introduced Henry around in Los Angeles and by 1961 he was writing for Steve Allen‘s TV show.
Then Henry and Mel Brooks created the TV comedy Get Smart, a silly-but-smart parody of spy movies that was a hit. After a couple of years of writing Get Smart, Henry was asked by Mike Nichols to write the screenplay for The Graduate. The film was nominated for seven Oscars and became a marker for twenty-somethings of the era.
In the 1970s, Buck Henry was also known for his on-screen appearances as the frequent host in the early days of Saturday Night Live (his deadpan delivery was often used as a counter to star John Belushi‘s wildness).
Henry’s screen roles were usually small but memorable: he was a hotel clerk in The Graduate; he played Colonel Korn in the film version of Catch-22 (1970); in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Henry was Oliver Farnsworth, the lawyer who assists David Bowie‘s character; Henry played a bank manager in the black comedy Eating Raoul (1982); he played himself in The Player (1992), pitching an idea for The Graduate II; and he played Tina Fey‘s father in the TV series 30 Rock (2007-10).
His other screenwriting credits include What’s Up, Doc (1972, starring Barbra Streisand), To Die For (1995, starring Nicole Kidman) and The Humbling (2014, starring Al Pacino).
He was nominated for an Oscar again — as best director — for 1978’s Heaven Can Wait, which he co-directed with the film’s star, Warren Beatty.
Something in Common with Buck Henry
- Actors born in New York (198)
- Writers born in New York (70)
- Writers born in the United States (342)
- Sagittarius Writers (34)
4 Good Links
- Nice look at his career from Dartmouth, his alma mater
- Rolling Stone magazine looks back at Henry's career
- Movie career overview from RogerEbert.com
- Collection of clips from Henry's TV appearances